Peer Support Initiative for Breast Cancer Patients Underway in Wisconsin

Peer Support Initiative for Breast Cancer Patients Underway in Wisconsin

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD) has announced the launch of a year-long initiative, called the “Power of One-to-One,” that aims to increase access to free peer support services for breast cancer (BC) patients, survivors, and their families and friends throughout Wisconsin.

The statewide initiative is being launched in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to raise awareness and encourage support.

The Power of One-to-One is actually a series of initiatives, and the first to start is the Liaison Project. This project provides advanced volunteer training to breast cancer survivors who want to become ABCD program liaisons to specific healthcare organizations in the state. Liaisons must meet with cancer care professionals and community health leaders on a regular basis to ensure that breast cancer patients can easily access ABCD’s Helpline (800-977-4121 or [email protected]), and to assist with resource navigation and one-to-one peer support.

The Southeast Wisconsin region already has active liaisons, and the project is expanding. The Fox Valley, Green Bay, and Wausau areas will be supported by a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin Cancer Control Program, and be followed by the State Beloit/Janesville region in the southern end of the state. Additional regions will be added as the network grows.

The initiative will also involve ABCD’s Wisconsin Breast Cancer Task Force, and expand on collaborations already underway, namely in Hispanic and African-American communities, rural areas, and with other breast cancer organizations.

“Even without studies showing the benefit of peer support, our founder Melodie Wilson Oldenburg and the breast cancer patients she recruited to build ABCD, understood that cancer is so much more than scans, biopsies and treatment,” Bonnie Anderson, ABCD board member, program committee chair and breast cancer survivor, said in a press release. “Getting through it requires support that is reliable and consistent from people who understand personally what is like to hear the words: you have cancer.”

The National Cancer Institute recommends cancer care providers emphasize quality of life issues, and supportive services are increasingly recognized as an essential part of easing the burden of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“A variety of studies have confirmed that emotional support complementing appropriate medical care can increase treatment compliance, improve survival rates, and diminish distress — from coping with family to work matters,” said Ginny Finn, executive director of ABCD.

ABCD was founded in Milwaukee in 1999 to provide personalized information and one-to-one support for people affected by breast cancer.